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Ecology of Amphibian-Microbial Symbioses

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Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00487

Host and aquatic environment shape the amphibian skin microbiome but effects on downstream resistance to the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis are variable.

 Andrea J. Jani1* and Cheryl J. Briggs2
  • 1Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States
  • 2Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, United States

Symbiotic microbial communities play key roles in the health and development of their multicellular hosts. Understanding why microbial communities vary among different host species or individuals is an important step toward understanding the diversity and function of the microbiome. The amphibian skin microbiome may affect resistance to the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Still, the factors that determine the diversity and composition of the amphibian skin microbiome, and therefore may ultimately contribute to disease resistance, are not well understood. We conducted a two-phase experiment to first test how host and environment shape the amphibian skin microbiome, and then test if the microbiome affects or is affected by Bd infection. Most lab experiments testing assembly of the amphibian skin microbiome so far have compared sterile to nonsterile environments or heavily augmented to non-augmented frogs. A goal of this study was to evaluate, in an experimental setting, realistic potential drivers of microbiome assembly that would be relevant to patterns observed in nature. We tested effects of frog genetic background (2 source populations) and 6 natural lake water sources in shaping the microbiome of the frog Rana sierrae. Water in which frogs were housed affected the microbiome in a manner that partially mimicked patterns observed in natural populations. In particular, frogs housed in water from disease-resistant populations had greater bacterial richness than frogs housed in water from populations that died out due to Bd. However, in the experiment this difference in microbiomes did not lead to differences in host mortality or rates of pathogen load increase. Frog source population also affected the microbiome and, although none of the frogs in this study showed true resistance to infection, host source population had a small effect on the rate of pathogen load increase. This difference in infection trajectories could be due to the observed differences in the microbiome, but could also be due to other traits that differ between frogs from the two populations. In addition to examining effects of the microbiome on Bd, we tested the effect of Bd infection severity on the microbiome. Specifically, we studied a time series of the microbiome over

Keywords: microbiome, community assembly, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Defensive symbiosis, Chytridiomycosis, Rana sierrae

Received: 31 Oct 2017; Accepted: 01 Mar 2018.

Edited by:

Reid Harris, James Madison University, United States

Reviewed by:

Diogo N. Proença, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Matthew H. Becker, Smithsonian Institution (SI), United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Jani and Briggs. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Andrea J. Jani, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Oceanography, Honolulu, United States,